Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


August 24, 2012

Football is more than the game

The weather getting chilly in the Northern Hemisphere usually means one thing: football season is here.

Though baseball may be America’s pastime, football is America’s way to relax after Thanksgiving dinner and a reason to get together with friends and family every winter for parties, commercials and tossing around the old pigskin. It is what keeps dads on the couch on Sunday afternoons and gets everyone together every Friday night.

It is hard to say if football is the harbinger of fall or if fall is the harbinger of football. The two are almost interchangeable. The cooler weather and leaves changing colors seems to go hand-in-hand with helmets and field goals.

I’m not a huge football fan myself, but I certainly grew up with them.

My mother has loved the Miami Dolphins since she was a little girl living outside Miami. Even when they lose every game, she still believes “there is always next year.” She still holds a deep grudge against the New England Patriots and often shouts “remember the snowplow!” whenever seeing any mention of them. It’s amazing how one game in 1982 can impact a person’s outlook on an entire region of the country for the rest of her life. At one point, she bought Dan Marino jerseys, hats and gloves for me, my brother and sister to show her support and make my dad a little angry.

Dad, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, has blood that runs black and gold. You can tell which chair in the living room is his because it has all of the Steelers blankets, the Terrible Towel and often the Steelers mug resting next to it. We joke that my dad only adopted the family dog because Dash is black and gold. He can recite player stats for years back, remembers games going back before I was born and made us all get up late on a school night to watch the trophy presentation when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006. I think Dad’s favorite player right now is Troy Polamalu, but he still lights up like a little kid whenever they revive that old Coca-Cola commercial with “Mean” Joe Greene.

Let’s just say things around the house would get a little contentious when Mom’s team played Dad’s team, and whoever won had several weeks worth of bragging rights thereafter. It was a friendly rivalry, and the two of them often take in football games together regardless of who is playing.

Beyond the rivalry at home, the high school I attended in Tennessee was often referred to as “that football school.” Riverdale High — not the one from the Archie Comics — won the state championship four times, and played in the state championship game more times than I can count. It was frequently boasted that our school was ranked several times as one of the top high school football programs in America by USA Today.

Other claims to fame include producing Fernando Bryant of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions as well as Dennis “Bigfoot” Harrison, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. I didn’t go to many games, but our pep rallies were legendary. There are plenty of Riverdale High players who met with college success as well.

Though I wasn’t big on the games, I knew a lot of the names of the guys on our team. It was hard to ignore those big guys in the bright red jerseys on Fridays and even harder to ignore them when their faces were always plastered on the cover of the local paper’s sports section. A lot of times they made the front page, too.

Now, I recognize names on the football roster as “so-and-so’s little brother.” Six years after graduation, I still can’t escape high school football. When the season rolls around, I still see all of the Facebook updates from hometown friends who are at the games letting the rest of us know the score.

To be honest, I’m not a person who is very keen on actually watching the game. I can get into the action, but I’m more into the entire atmosphere that a football game brings. You have the concessions, the smell of people grilling out, the crisp autumn air and that sense of camaraderie in the stands. When I was in high school, I always found it interesting how many people my parents’ age and older I found in the stands, reliving their glory days or rooting for their own kids who were now playing on the field.

 Even though I don’t live in the same town anymore, I have found high school football is still the main topic of conversation in barber shops, around dinner tables and at the office water cooler. High school football may not be my sole reason for existence, but I can still appreciate what it is about this sport, about these young athletes, that brings people from local communities out every Friday night.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, and, in a way, it takes a community to support a football team.

Kate Coil is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at

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